Monday night’s game against the Yankees marked the official midpoint of the 2017 Blue Jays’ season. While the season hasn’t played out the way Blue Jays fans would have liked thus far, there are 78 games still to be played. And a lot can happen in 78 games. Speaking of a lot happening in 78 games, this season has given us plenty of surprises so far: Justin Smoak raking, a month of Kevin Pillar walking, and the Rogers Centre roof being closed almost every damn day.
Making predictions might be a fool’s errand, but you can’t say I told you so if you don’t make them. And given the Blue Jays recent losing streak, looking to the near future may be more appealing than venting or unpacking the team’s current struggles. With that in mind, here are some bold predictions for the second half of the 2017 season. Bold, bold. Not Doritos “bold taste” bold, but that Indian place you have to remind yourself not to get the hot option bold.
Russ Martin Moves to Second, Josh Donaldson to Catcher
So far this season, injuries and poor performance have wreaked havoc with the Blue Jays starting lineup. John Gibbons has been forced to start players out of position. Jose Bautista has seen time at third base and Russ Martin has started at both second and third. With the Blue Jays trading for catcher Miguel Montero today, there is some speculation that Martin could play even more second base.
Stars playing out of position will go to an even further extreme in the second half when Gibbons experiments with starting Josh Donaldson behind the plate. Donaldson, who last caught in 2012, will push Russell Martin to second base – allowing Martin to avoid the physical tolls of catching everyday and Gibbons to keep Ryan Goins on the bench. Despite playing below average defense at the position, Donaldson’s bat makes him worth 4.5 Wins Above Replacement in just over 40 innings. Donaldson becomes the most effective Blue Jays catcher at stopping the running game. We still don’t see Kendrys Morales in the outfield.
The AL East Continues to Get Great Production from Unexpected First Basemen
Forget Miguel Cabrera, Edwin Encarnacion, and the rest of name brand first basemen of the AL Central. The AL East provides more first base production for a fraction of the price. Seeing Justin Smoak and Logan Morrison on the American League offensive leaderboards has been a surprise to everyone. So much so that no one seems to notice the Red Sox’s Mitch Moreland having himself a nice little season of his own – posting a .264/.350/.468 slash line through Sunday.
Expect the trend to continue in the second half when James Loney signs with the Orioles and posts a career highs in home runs, on-base percentage and RBIs – all in half a season while filling in for the injured Chris Davis.
And speaking of Justin Smoak…
Justin Smoak’s Success Leads to Many Emulating His Approach
As Smoak continues to mash the baseball from both sides of the plate, his unorthodox diet begins to catch on with the rest of the team. Players like Jose Bautista and Russell Martin, known for their dedication to healthy eating and training, begin to emulate Smoak’s nutritional regiment and start eating pasta topped with mayonnaise instead of their preferred tomato sauce.
Bautista and Martin also begin to listen to country music and chewing Skoal brand tobacco. Their production spikes accordingly.
The Blue Jays Sign Taz Tulowitzki
With Bo Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. in the midst of impressive seasons with the single-A Lansing Lugnuts, the Blue Jays front office begins to believe they have identified a new market inefficiency in the quest to build a winning baseball team: employing the children of former major league players.
In a piece of shrewd business, Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins sign Troy Tulowitzki’s 3-year-old son, Taz, to a 30-year contract reminiscent of shady backroom dealings that happen in professional soccer. Scouts project Taz to contribute on both offense and defense in the middle of the diamond but fear a steep drop in his offensive production during his early 30s. The younger Tulo is paid a signing bonus significantly higher than that given to Cavan Biggio.
The contract will run through Taz’s age 34 season – which is the age the Blue Jays had wished his father’s contract would have expired.
Kendrys Morales Hits the Longest, Hardest Single of the Season
Kendrys Morales has always hit the baseball hard. The Blue Jays designated hitter is regularly atop Major League Baseball’s year-end exit velocity leader boards. Unfortunately for Kendrys, a lot of his scorched balls are hit on the ground, where they do minimal damage. In another spat of bad luck, Morales hits the longest single of the season when he laces a 400-foot line drive off the top of the centre field wall at the Rogers Centre.
The ill-fated combination of Morales’ lack of footspeed and an incredibly well-struck baseball leaves Kendrys standing at first base and the proud owner of baseball’s longest and hardest hit single of the season (and the Statcast era).
Blue Jays High Performance Department Hires Eddie Van Halen to work with Aaron Sanchez
With more traditional baseball remedies remaining ineffective, Gil Kim enlists the help of 80s guitarist Eddie Van Halen to help keep Sanchez’s blister’s and fingernails in check. Kim, who was impressed with the famous guitarist’s ability to practice for hours on end without ruining his hands, hopes Eddie will be able to transfer some of his hand preservation secrets to the Blue Jays’ young ace.
After Winning the World Series, the Jays are Invited to Meet PM Trudeau. Several Players Elect to Not Attend.
After being eliminated in the American League Championship Series two years in a row, the Blue Jays finally do the dang thing and advance to the World Series, where they beat the Nationals in seven games.
As per tradition, the team is invited to meet with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during the offseason. However, several notable players don’t show up.
The consummate professional, Troy Tulowitzki elects to remain at the Blue Jays’ spring training facilities in order to not disrupt his offseason workouts. Coming off another MVP-caliber season, Josh Donaldson, who recently purchased Battlefied 4 for Xbox 360, has some buddies over to his place to play multiplayer and declines the invitation (but he does invite PM Trudeau to join their online game). And like the Cubs’ Carl Edwards Jr., Joe Biagini skips the meeting in order to take in the dinosaur exhibit at the nearby Museum of Natural History in Ottawa.
Before you call these too bold, go ahead and pull up Justin Smoak’s 2017 stats. And after you do that, remember that what makes baseball so great is all of the improbable things that happen each and every season. And with that in mind…cue the second half comeback, Blue Jays!
Lead Photo: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports